Bourbon. Right now — after a week of refraining from anything made with grain — it tastes like freedom.
Here in my house we’ve just emerged from the week of Passover. We do lots of celebratory things to relive our exodus from enslavement, but we also spend the week not eating bread or anything else made from wheat or several other grains.
Taking on this refraining practice for a week each year always gets me thinking about when to work with our natural tendencies and desires, and when to work against the grain (so to speak). For true growth and healing in my life, I know I need both. Too much going with the flow and I lose my sense of grounding in life. Too much restraint and I start getting pretty mean to myself and others pretty quickly. I know some of my Christian friends are just emerging from Lent and I wonder if they have a similar feeling about all of this.
Refraining practices require an exceedingly loving and accepting touch.
A little restraint goes a long way and it doesn’t work for me if it starts to touch on my inherent worth as a human being. As soon as refraining is beating myself up I’ve lost the game.
Still, saying, “no” to my own desires is powerful stuff. Just thinking about those moments this past week when I wanted to eat bread but didn’t, I can still feel a sharp and immediate internal tug, a delightful tightening of appetite’s reins.
Here’s one way I like to think about this:
Working through/with our natural tendencies is our fuel, our accelerator. Refraining practices, working against the grain, are the brakes. Brakes are absolute life savers but we don’t go anywhere without gas. So, while we need both, brakes need to be applied gently and sparingly.
Whether it’s giving up bread for a week, fasting completely a few days a year, or choosing some other practice of restraint, for me it’s ultimately about letting my hunger for what I’m saying “no” to create an even deeper channel for my healthiest desire for life itself.
So it makes sense that, after putting away our Passover dishes, my husband and I broke out the bourbon and toasted each other with “L’chaim — to life!”